The new research published in the journal Current Biology on Thursday sheds light on the evolution of bedbugs and how they survived on Earth and lived with dinosaurs. The study reveals that bedbugs have been around for significantly longer than scientists predicted.
“To think that the pests that live in our beds today evolved more than 100 million years ago and were walking the Earth side by side with dinosaurs was a revelation. It shows that the evolutionary history of bed bugs is far more complex than we previously thought,” Professor Mike Siva-Jothy from the University of Sheffield, who participated in the study, said in a news release.
Dr. Steffen Roth at the University Museum Bergen in Norway and one of the authors said as per the statement that previous predictions suggested that bats were the first animals affected by bedbugs. Considering that bats evolved around 50 to 60 million years ago, researchers dated the evolution of bedbugs to such a timeline also.
“It was also unexpected to see that evolutionary older bedbugs were already specialized on a single host type, even though we don’t know what the host was at the time when T. rex walked the earth,” Roth said.
The study suggests that dinosaurs didn’t host these parasites, however, which makes sense considering their size. Still, researchers have known that bedbugs feed on animals that have actual homes. That said, the parasites will likely attack bird nests, or as their name suggests, human beds. It’s safe to confirm that dinosaurs lived anywhere they wanted and didn’t have homes.
The study took significant time, as Roth and his team spent 15 years studying and analyzing bedbug species around the world. They analyzed the DNA of 34 species that live in 62 different locations, The New York Times reported.
In addition to the research that shows bedbugs lived with dinosaurs 100 million years ago, researchers found that every half a million years a new species of bedbugs appeared. Additionally, while most bedbugs prefer one host species, there are bedbug species that change between different types of hosts.
It’s interesting that there are two parasite species discovered by the team that show unique properties. While humans are often found to be their hosts, the common and the tropical bedbug lived much before humans evolved on Earth.
“These findings will help us better understand how bedbugs evolved the traits that make them effective pests … that will also help us find new ways of controlling them,” Siva-Jothy said.